Culture

CSI: Cyber Another Case of Art Imitating Life

When CBS picked up the option to make CSI: Cyber last year, little did programming execs dream that hacking would move to the center of worry for individuals as well as businesses. The Sony hack is just one of a long line of devastating crimes committed by organized hackers — governments or crime syndicates — that have unsettled everyone and made internet security a top priority for governments, businesses and individual consumers.

Judging from this trailer for the premiere on March 4, it appears that the CSI brand is in good hands:

The setting will not be a local police station, but the FBI Cyber Crimes Division. Patricia Arquette heads up the unit and will be kicking butt and taking names playing FBI Special Agent Avery Ryan. The cast will also include James Van Der Beek, Charley Koontz, Peter MacNicol and Shad Moss (aka rapper “Bow Wow”).

The series will reunite the original team that brought CSI to TV: Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony Zuiker and Ann Donahue were writers and executive producers who brought the original CSI to TV in 1999. But how far will they stray from the CSI formula and still make the series work?

How much physical evidence is there in cybercrime? And will viewers sit still for explanations on the inner workings of the internet? It’s fairly easy to explain DNA and other trace evidence and long time viewers of the other CSI franchises know the basics of how the evidence is gathered and analyzed.

But investigating real cybercrime involves painstaking technical procedures that don’t lend themselves well to explanations on series TV. You would hope they wouldn’t go all Star Trek on us and just invent a bunch of gee-wiz gadgets and fake technical jargon to fill in the blanks. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they remain true to the CSI franchise while holding our interest.

All of the CSI spinoffs have done reasonably well and CSI: Cyber shouldn’t be any different. But a precious few shows have had the longevity of the original CSI drama and every time they expand the franchise, they risk going off the rails. You would think that with the original production team back on board that there would be a serious effort to maintain the integrity of the brand. If they do, they could easily have a big hit on their hands as cyber security becomes an even bigger issue going forward.